Why you might recycle a battery and how to do it

Why you might recycle a battery and how to do it

Why you might recycle a battery and how to do it

Lithium-ion batteries, which are used in electric vehicles, are a more recent invention; they appeared in the 1990s in small electronic devices before finding a market in electric vehicles. As their use has increased, so have efforts to recycle them.

The processes of recycling companies all look the same to an outside observer. The batteries are dismantled and ground, and the powder obtained is dissolved before being subjected to various chemical techniques. But the details will be a deciding factor in determining how much valuable material recyclers can salvage, and therefore how much money they can earn.

With advances in these processes, the prospects for building a business around battery recycling have improved. The same dynamic continues in solar panel recycling, where companies are scrambling to salvage silver and other expensive materials from devices.

On a personal level, I think finding ways to recycle and reuse materials to reduce waste and destructive mining is a worthwhile goal in itself. But profitability is a surefire way to make battery recycling more likely.

We are still in the early stages of battery recycling. China funded and encouraged a massive industry, and now Europe and North America are catching up, with companies raising hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and building multi-billion dollar facilities.

For my deep dive into battery recycling, I took a look at one such company, Redwood Materials. If you want to know more about what Redwood is trying to do or the challenges the company is facing, check out my feature article that came out yesterday. I also got to chat with JB Straubel, founder of Redwood Materials and former chief technology officer at Tesla, about where he is heading for the industry. You can find an edited version of our conversation here.

Follow the climate

Climeworks has announced that it is started removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at its Orca factory in Iceland. (The Wall Street Journal)

→ The plant may not be big, but it’s a major step for carbon elimination, which was one of our top technologies in 2022. (MIT Technology Review)


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